Hope everyone is enjoying Spring Break!
SXSW is going on in my neck of the woods, which would be amazing to attend, but the sheer number of people in attendance (and of course the price tag) have convinced me to enjoy a quiet week close to home. I will say, though, that I envy those who get paid to write about their SXSW experiences. That must be an incredible gig!
Anyway, onto my response to last week’s prompt! There might just be a bit of my past experiences mingling with my wanderlust in this one, but inspiration can come from anywhere. Check back tomorrow for the next prompt!
Another runway. Another baggage claim. Another cab ride. Another hotel. What had once been a delightful and whimsical experience now felt much like a necessary evil. A process. Something redundant, boring, and sometimes (if I was lucky for the change of pace) even frustrating. I had arrived in yet another country. Whoopee.
The back of my head plopped down against the pillow on the double bed. I turned to the left, but the other double was empty, as always. It had been more than a year since another person had joined me on my adventures, but the sting of leaving them behind lingered. Why couldn’t I just settle down like a normal person? I already knew the answer, but it didn’t matter. I couldn’t bring myself to have that internal come-to-Jesus chat just yet.
I unpacked my bags in record time, setting up my home for the next two weeks as comfortably as I could. Then, like always, I grabbed my backpack, stuffed in my camera and notepad, and headed out the door.
I’d never been to Latin America before, but some friends had insisted I take a break from the European wonderland to explore new territory. Clear my head, or something. It’s just what you need. I was pretty sure there’s a pill with the same catch-phrase, but I kept my mouth shut and bought a ticket to Costa Rica. Why not?
What I should have asked myself was why didn’t I do this sooner?
The second I stepped out of the hotel room, my surroundings became apparent. Salty ocean air filled my senses, cleansing me of the stale Westernized shroud I’d wrapped around myself. I called for a cab and asked to see the country as it should be seen. The driver seemed confused at first, but then a smile crept over his lips and I didn’t know whether to be excited or terrified. He said something in Spanish faster than my poor excuse for in-flight Spanish lessons could make sense of and we started off.
One thing I’d learned early on was to allow the country to show itself to me, not force a version that everyone else expects. It’s easy to see what you want to see when you come in with expectations, but that way so much is lost. Asking a local to show you their favorite sights, following pathways off the tourist highway, those are the experiences that show what a country really has to offer.
The cab driver took us out of town, all the while trying to explain to me in broken English what we were passing. I attempted to bridge the language gap with even more broken Spanish and to an extent, I think we made it work. I took notes on some of the interesting places we passed, vowing to try to do them justice later on, but it wasn’t until we started going up a way-too-steep mountainside I became a bit concerned.
“Is fine,” the driver told me cheerfully. I looked over the edge of the road at the steep drop that looked a bit too close for comfort and scooted to the other side of the car. The road twisted, sometimes severely, to accommodate the incline, but unlike the roads I’d seen in Europe and the States, these switchbacks didn’t feel like someone had carefully planned each turn for maximum safety and efficiency. No, these were more like someone took a stick to the side of the mountain and started slashing.
I closed my eyes and started regretting not getting my affairs in order before this trip.
“Miss!” The cab driver’s voice sounded all too gleeful to be putting us both at so much risk, but I opened one eye, just to see what he was trying to show me. He pointed out the window and smiled at me from the rear-view mirror. “This is my home,” he said proudly. My eyes flew open and my mouth gaped.
We were in a cloud. We were still on a road, my brain assured me, but we were surrounded by a thick white haze. I realized he’d stopped the car and gotten out. The driver walked around the my side and open the door for me, ushering me out into the sky and I obliged. I stood by the car and stared out across the haze. We were still on an inclined road, but across the way was a leveled section of earth, large and almost perfectly square. On it, a group of children were playing soccer, getting so close to the edge my heart was in my throat within moments of watching. They’d set up goals on either side, as safely as they could, I supposed, and didn’t seem the least bit concerned that their torsos were sticking straight up out of a moving cloud.
“My village is down that road,” my driver told me, indicating a dirt pathway a few yards from the soccer field.
“It’s amazing,” I said. In that moment, I was aware of two things: first, of all the wondrous places I’d seen–the palaces, skyscrapers, fields of colorful flowers–this was the most remarkable; second, I could never do it justice with words alone.
I reached into the back seat of the cab and grabbed my camera. I snapped picture after picture of the children’s game, my guide, and the gorgeous mountainside. From where we stood, I could see green trees and mountains for miles. Once the cloud passed us over, the view became even more stunning and I started to feel a bit overwhelmed. No gilded palace could top the majesty of this place. This was the stuff of dreams.